Thursday, February 20, 2014

100 Books Everyone Should Read Before They Die

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Amazon book editors have just released a list of their 100 Books To Read In A Lifetime.
Many of the books are 20th century classics or recent bestsellers — the oldest book on the list is Jane Austen's 1813 masterpiece "Pride and Prejudice." It also spanned multiple genres, with adult fiction, nonfiction, children's, and young adult novels such as "The Hunger Games" and "Harry Potter" making the list.
“With 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime, we set out to build a roadmap of a literary life without making it feel like a homework assignment,” Sara Nelson, Editorial Director of Print and Kindle Books at Amazon, said in a press release. “Over many months, the team passionately debated and defended the books we wanted on this list. In other words, we applied plenty of the bookish equivalent of elbow-grease, and we can’t wait to hear what customers have to say about our final picks.”
man reading library old antiques
Check out the final list of books in alphabetical order below.
  1. "1984" by George Orwell
  2. "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking
  3. "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" by Dave Eggers
  4. "A Long Way Gone" by Ishmael Beah
  5. "A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning: The Short-Lived Edition" by Lemony Snicket
  6. "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle
  7. "Alice Munro: Selected Stories" by Alice Munro
  8. "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll
  9. "All the President's Men" by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
  10. "Angela's Ashes: A Memoir" by Frank McCourt
  11. "Are You There, God? It's me, Margaret" by Judy Blume
  12. "Bel Canto" by Ann Patchett
  13. "Beloved" by Toni Morrison
  14. "Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen" by Christopher McDougall
  15. "Breath, Eyes, Memory" by Edwidge Danticat
  16. "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller
  17. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by Roald Dahl
  18. "Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White
  19. "Cutting For Stone" by Abraham Verghese
  20. "Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead" by Brene Brown
  21. "Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 1" by Jeff Kinney
  22. "Dune" by Frank Herbert
  23. "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury
  24. "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream" by Hunter S. Thompson
  25. "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn
  26. "Goodnight Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown
  27. "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens
  28. "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies" by Jared M. Diamond
  29. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" by J.K. Rowling
  30. "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote
  31. "Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri
  32. "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison
  33. "Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth" by Chris Ware
  34. "Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bourdain
  35. "Life After Life" by Kate Atkinson
  36. "Little House on the Prairie" by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  37. "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov
  38. "Love in the Time of Cholera" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  39. "Love Medicine" by Louise Erdrich
  40. "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl
  41. "Me Talk Pretty One Day" by David Sedaris
  42. "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides
  43. "Midnight's Children" by Salman Rushdie
  44. "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis
  45. "Of Human Bondage" by W. Somerset Maugham
  46. "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac
  47. "Out of Africa" by Isak Dinesen
  48. "Persepolis" by Marjane Satrapi
  49. "Portnoy's Complaint" by Philip Roth
  50. "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen
  51. "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson
  52. "Slaughterhouse-Five" by Kurt Vonnegut
  53. "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  54. "The Age of Innocence" by Edith Wharton
  55. "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" by Michael Chabon
  56. "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  57. "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak
  58. "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz
  59. "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger
  60. "The Color of Water" by James McBride
  61. "The Corrections" by Jonathan Franzen
  62. "The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America" by Erik Larson
  63. "The Diary of Anne Frank" by Anne Frank
  64. "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green
  65. "The Giver" by Lois Lowry
  66. "The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials" by Philip Pullman
  67. "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  68. "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood
  69. "The House At Pooh Corner" by A. A. Milne
  70. "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins
  71. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot
  72. "The Liars' Club: A Memoir" by Mary Karr
  73. "The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1)" by Rick Riordan
  74. "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  75. "The Long Goodbye" by Raymond Chandler
  76. "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11" by Lawrence Wright
  77. "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien
  78. "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales" by Oliver Sacks
  79. "The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals" by Michael Pollan
  80. "The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster
  81. "The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel" by Barbara Kingsolver
  82. "The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York" by Robert A. Caro
  83. "The Right Stuff" by Tom Wolfe
  84. "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy
  85. "The Secret History" by Donna Tartt
  86. "The Shining" by Stephen King
  87. "The Stranger" by Albert Camus
  88. "The Sun Also Rises" by Ernest Hemingway
  89. "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien
  90. "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle
  91. "The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame
  92. "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel" by Haruki Murakami
  93. "The World According to Garp" by John Irving
  94. "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion
  95. "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe
  96. "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee
  97. "Valley of the Dolls" by Jacqueline Susann
  98. "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein
  99. "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak

Singapore teacher jailed for "love bites" on boy

A Singapore court Wednesday jailed a 42-year-old female teacher for six months for committing indecent acts on a 13-year-old boy studying in the same school, including giving him "love bites".
The woman, a teacher for 11 years and a mother of four, had earlier pleaded guilty to two charges of sexual exploitation of a child or young person under Singapore's Children and Young Persons Act.
According to court documents, the woman, who cannot be named as it could lead to the identification of the victim, kissed the boy on his lips and given him love bites on his shoulder and neck on two separate occasions in 2012.
She became acquainted with the boy, a football team-mate of her son, and started to chat with him on Facebook, subsequently committing the incriminating acts when they went on outings to public parks.
The boy's mother filed a police report after discovering a love bite on his neck.
"This case involved the sexual grooming and exploitation of a young victim 13 years of age, by a school teacher," district judge Ng Peng Hong said in a written judgement.
"In my view, implanting of love bites and kissing with her tongue into the victim's mouth in a public park by the teacher were indecent, sexual and not appropriate," he said.
The judge said he was imposing a stiff sentence due to the "significant age gap" between the woman and the boy.
"The accused as a teacher and educator should not have defiled and corrupted the young victim," he said.
The judge said he did not place much weight on the defence argument that the woman was suffering from depression.
The woman could have been jailed for up to five years, fined Sg$10,000 ($7,932) or both, for each of the two charges she faced.

Celebrities, European Leaders Push for Final Deal on Wall Street Tax

A new viral video with Andrew Lincoln of “The Walking Dead” is one more setback for financial industry lobbyists fighting a financial transaction tax.

Sarah Anderson
RINF Alternative News
If you love Harry Potter, zombies, European art house films, or thumbing your nose at the big banks, you’ll love the new video promoting a Wall Street tax.
This is the first time, in my recollection, that major celebrities have ever showed a united front against the mighty financial industry lobby. The director is David Yates, who made the last four Harry Potter movies. Andrew Lincoln, the star of the hit zombie series “The Walking Dead,” and Bill Nighy, of “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and “Love, Actually,” are among the actors.

Wall Street lobbyists will hate the film because it portrays a newscast 10 years from now in which a panel of bankers rave about the multitudinous benefits their countries have enjoyed as a result of a small tax on trades of stock and derivatives. The only panelist who’s decidedly not over the moon is Nighy, who plays a banker from the UK, which did not adopt the tax.
The viral video is one more setback for the financial industry lobbyists who have been madly trying to block progress on such taxes. In Europe, they seem to be losing the battle.
At a February 19 press conference in Paris, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Hollande confirmed that a coalition of 11 EU governments are on track to finalize a coordinated financial transaction tax before May. European elections are that month, and this is considered a sure vote-getter. The latest Euro-barometer survey shows 82 percent of German and 72 percent of French citizens support it.
There have been hints, however, that the tax could be a watered-down version of the initialEuropean Commission proposal. That original plan would place a tax of 0.1 percent on stock and bond trades and 0.01 percent on derivatives. Expected revenues: 31 billion euros ($US 42 billion) per year.
In a recent speech, EU Tax Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta indicated that negotiators are considering a graduated approach as a compromise. In the first phase, the tax would apply only to stock trades. In subsequent phases, it would be expanded to cover other instruments, including derivatives and possibly foreign exchange spot transactions.
German activist Peter Wahl feels this would be a bit of a setback but not the end of the world. “We could live with a two-step approach as a compromise under the condition that there is a binding timetable for the second step and that derivatives are included in the end,” he said.
Wahl, an analyst with the German group WEED, is one of the leaders of a diverse international campaign made up of labor, global health, climate, and other groups that has driven the financial transaction tax (aka Robin Hood Tax) from the fringe to the center of global debates.
At her joint press conference with Hollande, Merkel predicted that “the minute things start to move forward other countries may be less reluctant and it could be expanded.”
European progress is likely to change the dynamic in the United States as well. The Obama administration is not yet supportive, but there is growing support in the U.S. Congress.
Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Peter DeFazio have proposed a 0.03 percent tax on stock, bond and derivative trades, with a tax credit offset for contributions to qualified tax-favored accounts, such as 401(k) retirement funds. Rep. Keith Ellison has introduced the Inclusive Prosperity Act, which proposes tax rates of 0.5 percent on stock, 0.1 percent on bond, and 0.005 percent on derivative trades, with an offset for taxpayers who make less than $50,000 per year.
The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the Harkin-DeFazio proposal could raise $350 billion over 10 years.
There is also growing support among financial industry professionals who believe the small tax would be good for market stability. In a joint letter, more than 50 financial professionals wrote that “These taxes will rebalance financial markets away from a short-term trading mentality that has contributed to instability in our financial markets.”
At a time when financial markets are dominated by computer-driven high frequency trading that has little benefit for the real economy, a tax of even a fraction of a percent could encourage longer-term sustainable investment.
At the end of the satirical video, the humiliated British banker lamely resorts to boasting about other occasions in which the Brits were not behind the curve, namely the Beatles and soccer. I suppose American bankers could come up with a few examples of their own. A better response to the growing momentum behind the financial transaction tax would be to just get on board.
Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project of the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive multi-issue think tank, in Washington DC. She’s also the co-author of the IPS reportAmerica’s Bailout Barons: Taxpayers, High Finance, and the CEO Pay Bubble.

Hundreds of thousands evicted in Spain since 2008 crash

The brutal consequences of evictions being carried in Spain by the banks in collaboration with the courts and police was evidenced once again recently when Antonio Argobia, a chronically ill and disabled 54-year-old, was thrown out of his home in the working class neighbourhood of Lavapiés in Madrid.
Two weeks ago, in the early morning, police cordoned off the street where Argobia rented an apartment and refused entrance to anyone who could not prove they lived or worked there, attempting to pre-empt an anti-eviction demonstration of the type that has become so common in Spain.
Soon after, a group of riot police broke down the door of Argobia’s apartment with a battering ram without any prior negotiation and with minimal warning. In the apartment were a mediator from a local Stop the Evictions (Stop Desahucios) campaign and two photographers from international news agencies, all of whom were arrested and charged with disobedience for refusing to leave the apartment. Argobia was carried out wearing just his pyjamas and put in a police van.
Throughout the morning, several hundred local people and protesters gathered outside the police cordon. When a group of them sat down on the street in an attempt to prevent the armoured police vans leaving, officers in riot gear dragged them away and began wielding their batons, causing several injuries.
Undeterred, the protesters chased the police, throwing everything from shoes to stones, trashcans and potted plants while shouting “Murderers!” and “Police out of the neighbourhoods of Madrid!”
Last Wednesday night, Francisco Valdés and Josefina Aranda, both in their 80s, and two sons who lived with them were evicted from the home in which they had lived since 1942. Josefina is disabled and unable to move from her bed.
Over 20 Civil Guards, officials from a judicial commission and two bulldozers were sent to evict and demolish their house. The elderly Valdés was involved in 11 years of litigation after paying a substantial sum in rent in good faith to someone who was not the real owner. Father and son explained that they did not have time to remove their belongings from the house before it was demolished and that the cost of renting somewhere else would leave them with no money for food, as their income is so low.
The terrible distress suffered by Argobia and the Valdés family is a daily occurrence in Spain. Typical are recent media reports highlighting a demonstration outside the BBVA bank in Zamora, protesting the eviction of a family with two young children and another family evicted from their small farm by the regional Castilla y León government after it slashed the subsidy on which they depended.
The outrage of the anti-eviction protesters is not hard to understand. They have become a major political issue in Spain, with widespread disgust at the police response and massive sympathy for those unable to pay their rents or caught in the mortgage trap at the same time as the banks have been bailed out with tens of billions of euros on low interest.
Since the financial crisis hit Spain in 2008, through the end of 2012, there have been hundreds of thousands of forced evictions. According to a document published last May by the country’s top legal body, the General Council of Judicial Power (CGPJ), there were 252,621 foreclosures, with an additional 198,116 pending review. It is clear that most foreclosures result in evictions.
Stories of people taking their own lives on receiving eviction notices continue to shock the country, although they have now become commonplace in the Spanish press. During the last two years, 16 such cases have been reported. Horrifying stories of people throwing themselves off balconies, or hanging or burning themselves alive in their homes, often as bailiffs approach seeking repossession, appear with shocking frequency.
The social catastrophe can be seen in a study by the National Statistics Institution in January this year, which show the number of suicides in Spain in 2012 grew 11.3 percent over the previous year, the largest recorded increase and now the leading cause of violent death ahead of traffic accidents.
The main organised opposition to the evictions is the Movement of Mortgage Victims (Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca, PAH), which was formed in 2009 on the basis that sufficient pressure would force the Popular Party (PP) government to change the eviction laws.
To this end, the PAH launched an anti-evictions petition with three main demands: a backdated halt to evictions, the creation of a pool of social housing, and a new law to allow those who have had their homes foreclosed to write off their debts by handing the property over to the bank.
The petition received 1.5 million signatures, but none of the demands were included in the PP’s new Law to Protect Debtors, Debt Restructuring and Social Renting. The law was so narrow that only a very small proportion of those facing eviction were covered, and it did not apply to existing eviction orders. Regional and local authorities were given powers to provide low-rent housing to evicted families, but only a fraction of those affected were covered. Most regions were so highly indebted and subject to deficit targets that they were unable to provide the accommodation or, where they did, cut expenditure on other services.
After the petition failed, the PAH sowed illusions in a judgment by the European Court of Justice, whose only criticism was that the speed of evictions violated European Union consumer protection laws.
The support the petition received is proof of the huge resentment within the Spanish population to the endless austerity measures and social cuts, and the betrayals carried out by the unions and parties like United Left (Izquierda Unida, IU), which is imposing cuts in collaboration with the Socialist Party (PSOE) in the regional government of Andalusia. But workers must break with the bankrupt perspective of pressure politics pursued by organisations like the PAH and their hangers-on in the pseudo-left. The struggle must be aimed at the expropriation of the ill-gotten wealth of the financial elite and the nationalization of the banks and major corporations, under the democratic control of the working class.
Carlos Hernández and Alejandro López are writers for WSWS.

Widow of pensioner killed when cruise ship window smashed in storm is offered a 25% discount off future holidays

  • James Swinstead, 85, died 'almost instantly' as wave struck in Channel
  • Freak wave hit a cruise ship, killing a pensioner as he dined with his wife
  • Wife Helen says she has been offered 25% off if she wants to sail again
  • 'I don't think that would tempt me back' says widow, 82
  • 14 other people on board were injured, and one woman airlifted to hospital
By Lucy Crossley

The window of a pensioner killed when a freak wave hit a cruise ship during a storm in the English Channel has said she was offered a 25per cent off her next holiday as compensation.
James Swinstead, 85, died 'almost instantly' after water rushed on board the British cruise ship Marco Polo as it was battered by waves during severe storms.
His wife Helen was dining with her husband when water crashed through a window, injuring him and a number of the 735 passengers on board the 22,000-tonne vessel.
Mrs Swinstead has claimed the 'badly maintained' vessel was regularly painted to hide rust, and that she was offered a 25per cent discount by cruise ship owners Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) if she chose to sail with the company again.
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Bereft: James Swinstead's widow Helen says she was offered a 25per cent off her next holiday as compensation
Bereft: James Swinstead's widow Helen says she was offered a 25per cent off her next holiday as compensation
Tragedy: James Swinstead (pictured with Helen), 85, of Colchester, Essex, was killed when a huge wave crashed into British cruise ship Marco Polo during severe storms on Friday
Tragedy: James Swinstead (pictured with Helen), 85, of Colchester, Essex, was killed when a huge wave crashed into British cruise ship Marco Polo during severe storms on Friday

Terror: The Marco Polo cruise ship docked at Tilbury in Essex after the father-of-two from Colchester died 'almost instantly' after water rushed on board the vessel during severe storms
Terror: The Marco Polo cruise ship docked at Tilbury in Essex after the father-of-two from Colchester died 'almost instantly' after water rushed on board the vessel during severe storms

'I don’t think that would tempt me back,' Mrs Swinstead, 82, told her local newspaper the Colchester Gazette.
'At least not until that ship is up to standard.'
A CMV spokesman would not comment directly on Mrs Swinstead’s claims.

Mrs Swinstead, from Colchester, Essex, was dining with her husband on the sixth floor of the vessel when a freak wave struck, blowing out four windows.
After the ship docked, Mrs Swinstead called for compensation to be awarded by CMV, her comments coming just hours before the ship was cleared by police and port authorities to sail again after inspections.
'I think the shipping company should give some sort of compensation. The ship was badly maintained. Four windows blew,' she said.

Workers: Crew members on board the ship, which was battered by storms in the English channel on Valentine's Day
Workers: Crew members on board the ship, which was battered by storms in the English channel on Valentine's Day

Disembarked: An elderly passenger is helped from the liner. Some 14 people were treated for minor injuries after the storm
Disembarked: An elderly passenger is helped from the liner. Some 14 people were treated for minor injuries after the storm
'There's so much paint on the outside you can't see the rust, they just slop some more on when they get to port.'
The couple were heading for the ship's home port of Tilbury in Essex at the end of a 42-night voyage when the incident happened on Valentine's Day, but father-of-two Mr Swinstead died on board.
A female passenger in her 70s was airlifted off the ship, while 14 people were treated for minor injuries.
Speaking in Tilbury after the ship docked, Mrs Swinstead said: 'I think it killed him almost instantly.'
She added: 'It was quite dreadful. I was sitting next to him and this window came in and the sea with it.
'We were all very, very wet. I think a woman was taken to hospital and my husband was going to get on the helicopter but he died before they could get him on it.
'He's never made headline news. He'll be sitting on his cloud chortling.'
Mrs Swinstead said she was worried about how she would afford to get her husband's body home so she could plan his funeral.
Return: The Marco Polo, pictured returning to Tilbury, Essex, last night after it's ill-fated Amazon cruise
Return: The Marco Polo, pictured returning to Tilbury, Essex, last night after it's ill-fated Amazon cruise

'With our insurance I think I'm entitled to £2,000, which won't even cover getting him home to Colchester,' she said.
'I said to my husband, because my father used to make paint, that's going to leak because there was a rusty puddle on the window sill. I expect to hear from the Marco Polo.
'He was a lovely husband'.
The wave caused damage to the ship's Waldorf Restaurant.
The vessel, which has been to the Amazon in South America and to the West Indies, arrived back at Tilbury and passengers began disembarking the ship from 7am yesterday morning.
It left Tilbury last night for a 14-night Norway and Northern Lights cruise with a full complement of around 790 passengers on board.
CMV spokesman Paul Foster said: 'Police and Port Health Authority people came on board yesterday and conducted their own investigations.
'They had the power to detain the vessel if they considered it was unseaworthy or if regulations were not being followed.'
He went on: 'The next cruise is under way. We had two senior CMV directors as well as representatives from the owners (the Global Maritime company of Greece) greeting passengers.
'Some passengers needed reassurance but no-one has cancelled and there have been no cancellations for the next two cruises which are also 14-night Northern Lights voyages.'
Mr Foster said the damage to the vessel had been limited to four smashed windows and carpet damage.
Terror: Vast seas snapped by a passenger aboard MS Marco Polo, left, on which an Mr Swinstead died as a freak wave hit the ship on Friday
Terror: Vast seas snapped by a passenger aboard MS Marco Polo, left, on which an Mr Swinstead died as a freak wave hit the ship on Friday

Devastating: Mr Swinstead was in the restaurant of the 22,000-ton ship when the gale whipped up a giant wave
Devastating: Mr Swinstead was in the restaurant of the 22,000-ton ship when the gale whipped up a giant wave
Passenger Allan Cooper said: ‘Furniture was beginning to shift,  so people were holding on to tables and chairs. Suddenly there was a very loud “bang” and the daylight  in the room reduced as a wall of  seawater covered most of the starboard windows.
‘The bang was the breaching of a window. Furniture was thrown around and water jetted in. Pandemonium broke out.’
It is not known exactly how Mr Swinstead died but he was pronounced dead on the ship.
An inquest into his death is due to open this week.
Following the incident, CMV said: 'CMV regrets to advise that earlier today their cruise ship m/s Marco Polo, en-route to her home port of Tilbury from the Azores, was hit by a freak wave during adverse sea conditions in the south western approaches of the English Channel.
'One elderly passenger has died and a further passenger has been airlifted for further shore-side medical assistance. The vessel sailed from Tilbury on January 5 and is carrying 735 mainly British passengers and 349 crew.
'Our thoughts are very much with these passengers and their families during this difficult time.'

29 Percent Of All U.S. Adults Under The Age Of 35 Are Living With Their Parents

Why Are So Many Young Adults Moving Back In With Mommy And Daddy
Why are so many young adults in America living with their parents?  According to a stunning Gallup survey that was recently released, nearly three out of every ten adults in the United States under the age of 35 are still living at home with Mom and Dad.  This closely lines up with a Pew Research Center analysis of Census data that looked at a younger sample of Americans which found that 36 percent of Americans 18 to 31 years old were still living with their parents.  That was the highest level that had ever been recorded.  Overall, approximately 25 million U.S. adults are currently living at home with their parents according to Time Magazine.  So what is causing all of this?  Well, there are certainly a lot of factors.  Overwhelming student loan debt, a depressing lack of jobs and the high cost of living are all definitely playing a role.  But many would argue that what we are witnessing goes far beyond temporary economic conditions.  There are many that believe that we have fundamentally failed our young people and have neglected to equip them with the skills and values that they need to be successful in the real world.
More Americans than ever before seem to be living in a state of “perpetual adolescence”.  As Gallup noted, one of the keys to adulthood is to be able to establish independence from your parents…
An important milestone in adulthood is establishing independence from one’s parents, including finding a job, a place to live and, for most, a spouse or partner, and starting one’s own family. However, there are potential roadblocks on the path to independence that may force young adults to live with their parents longer, including a weak job market, the high cost of living, significant college debt, and helping care for an elderly or disabled parent.
Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult for young people to become financially independent.  While they are in high school, we endlessly pound into their heads the need to go to college.  Then we urge them to take out whatever loans that they will need to pay for it, ensuring them that they will be able to get “good jobs” which will enable them to pay off those loans when they graduate.
Of course a very large percentage of them find that there aren’t any “good jobs” waiting for them when they graduate.  But because of the crippling loans that they have accumulated, they quickly realize that they have decades of debt slavery ahead of them.
Just consider the following numbers about the growth of student loan debt in the United States…
-The total amount of student loan debt in the United States has risen to a brand new all-time record of 1.08 trillion dollars.
-Student loan debt accounted for 3.1 percent of all consumer debt in 2003.  Today, it accounts for 9.4 percent of all consumer debt.
-In the third quarter of 2007, the student loan delinquency rate was 7.6 percent.  Today, it is up to 11.5 percent.
This is a student loan debt bubble unlike anything that we have ever seen before, and it seems to get worse with each passing year.
So when is the bubble going to finally burst?
Meanwhile, our young adults are still really struggling to find jobs.
For those in the 18 to 29-year-old age bracket, it is getting even harder to find full-time employment.  In June 2012, 47 percent of those in that entire age group had a full-time job.  One year later, in June 2013, only43.6 percent of that entire age group had a full-time job.
And in many ways, things are far tougher for those that didn’t finish college than for those that did.  In fact, the unemployment rate for 27-year-old college dropouts is nearly three times as high as the unemployment rate for those that finished college.
In addition, since Barack Obama has been president close to 40 percentof all 27-year-olds have spent at least some time unemployed.
So it should be no surprise that 27-year-olds are really struggling financially.  Only about one out of every five 27-year-olds owns a home at this point, and an astounding 80 percent of all 27-year-olds are in debt.
Even if a young adult is able to find a job, that does not mean that it will be enough to survive on.  The quality of jobs in America continues to go downhill and so do wages.
The ratio of what men in the 18 to 29-year-old age bracket are earning compared to what the general population is earning is at an all-time low, and American families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.
No wonder so many young people are living at home.  Trying to survive in the real world is not easy.
Many of those that are trying to make it on their own are really struggling to do so.  Just consider the case of Kevin Burgos.  He earns $10.50 an hour working as an assistant manager at a Dunkin Donuts location in Hartford, Connecticut.  According to CNN, he can’t seem to make enough to support his family no matter how hard he works…
He works 35 hours each week to support his family of three young children. All told, Burgos makes about $1,800 each month.
But his bills for basic necessities, including rent for his two-bedroom apartment, gas for his car, diapers and visits to the doctor, add up to $2,400. To cover these expenses without falling short, Burgos would need to make at least $17 per hour.
“I am always worried about what I’m going to do for tomorrow,” Burgos said.
There are millions of young people out there that are pounding their heads against the wall month after month trying to work hard and do the right thing.  Sometimes they get so frustrated that they snap.  Just consider the following example
Health officials have temporarily shut down a southern West Virginia pizza restaurant after a district manager was caught on surveillance video urinating into a sink.
Local media reported that the Mingo County health department ordered the Pizza Hut in Kermit, about 85 miles southwest of Charleston, to shut down.
But as I mentioned earlier, instead of blaming young people for their failures, perhaps we need to take a good, long look at how we have raised them.
The truth is that our public schools are a joke, SAT scores are at an all-time low, and we have pushed nearly all discussion of morality, values and faith out of the public square.
No wonder most of our young people are dumb as a rock and seem to have no moral compass.
Or could it be possible that I am being too hard on them?
Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

91% of Republicans – and 93% of Democrats – Think We Have Too Much Inequality

Politicians May Not Care About Inequality, But People Of Both Parties Do

A Gallup poll last month found that 54% of all Republicans think we have too much inequality.
A recent poll by leading behavioral scientist Dan Ariely of Duke University found that, in the abstract, 91% of Republicans favored Swedish levels of inequality instead of higher American levels … and the results for Democrats were virtually identical at 93%:

As Ariely notes, politicians may be trying to make us think we’re more different than we really are. We’re sure it has nothing to do with the fact that a majority of congress members are now millionaires, and that they profit handsomely from things that are destructive to the rest of us. And see this.
The discomfort of the American people is not entirely surprising, given that inequality in America today is twice as bad as in ancient Rome, worse than it was in Tsarist RussiaGilded Age America, modern Egypt, Tunisia or Yemen, many banana republics in Latin America, and worse than experienced byslaves in 1774 colonial America.And even the top 1% are getting peanuts compared to the top .01%.

Baby Boomers Pensions Owed by U.S. May Result in Economic Tidal Wave if U.S. refuses to pay

After 45 years of collecting premiums for their pension plans, which the government refers to as “Social Security,” Baby Boomers become aware that while normally with contracts for future obligations of this kind the issuer is required by law to accumulate money into a fund to make sure that there will be enough available when future payments become due, the federal government did not abide by those laws. The funds exist on paper only. The money that comes in for future obligations is immediately spent and replaced by a government IOU. So, as those future payments come due, all of the money must come from revenue being collected at that time. Now the government says they have spent the money and can’t honor the I.O.U. Herein lies the doomsday mechanism. These obligations will be paid out of future taxes or inflation. Entitlements currently represent 52% of all federal outlays, and they are growing at the rate of 12% each year. When this is added to the 14% that is now being spent for interest payments on the national debt, we come to the startling conclusion that two-thirds of all federal expenses are now entirely automatic, and that percentage is growing each month.
Even if Congress were to stop all of the spending programs in the normal budget–dismantle the armed forces, close down all of its agencies and bureaus, stop all of its subsidies, and board up all of its buildings, including the White House–it would be able to reduce its present spending by only one-third. And even that small amount is shrinking by 10 to 12% per year. That is a best-case scenario. The real-case is that Congress is accelerating its discretionary spending, not canceling it. One does not have to be a statistical analyst to figure out where this trend is headed.
The biggest doomsday mechanism of all, however, is the Federal Reserve System. It will be recalled that every cent of our money supply–including coins, currency, and checkbook money–came into being for the purpose of being lent to someone. All of those dollars will disappear when the loans are paid back. They will exist only so long as the debt behind them exists. Underneath the pyramid of money, supporting the entire structure, are the so-called reserves which represent the Fed’s monetizing of debt. If we tried to pay off the national debt, those reserves also would start to disappear, and our money supply would be under-mined. The Fed would have to scramble into the world money markets and replace U.S. securities with bonds from corporations and other countries. Technically, that can be done, but the effect would be devastating. Congress would be fearful to eliminate the national debt even if it wanted to.
Debt Ceiling is an Illusion
Congress passed the Monetary Control Act of 1980 which authorized the Federal Reserve to “monetize foreign debt.” That is banker language meaning that the Fed was now authorized to create money out of nothing for the purpose of lending to foreign governments. It classifies those loans as “assets” and then uses them as collateral for the creation of even more money here in the United States. That was truly a revolutionary expansion of the Fed’s power to inflate. Until then, it was permitted to make money only for the American government. Now, it was able to do it for any government. Since then it has been functioning as a central bank for the entire world.

85 Billionaires and the Better Half

An urban slum in Hanoi, Viet Nam. (Photo: Flickr / United Nations / Creative Commons)The world’s 85 richest individuals possess as much wealth as the 3.5 billion souls who compose the poorer half of the world’s population, or so it was announced in a report by Oxfam International. The assertion sounds implausible to me.  I think the 85 richest individuals, who together are worth many hundreds of billions of dollars, must have far more wealth than the poorest half of our global population.
How could these two cohorts, the 85 richest and 3.5 billion poorest, have the same amount of wealth? The great majority of the 3.5 billion have no net wealth at all. Hundreds of millions of them have jobs that hardly pay enough to feed their families. Millions of them rely on supplements from private charity and public assistance when they can. Hundreds of millions are undernourished, suffer food insecurity, or go hungry each month, including many among the very poorest in the United States.
“The number of people living in poverty is growing at a faster rate than the world’s population. So poverty is spreading even as wealth accumulates. It is not enough to bemoan this enormous inequality, we must also explain why it is happening.”
Most of the 3.5 billion earn an average of $2.50 a day. The poorest 40 percent of the world population accounts for just 5 percent of all global income. About 80 percent of all humanity live on less than $10 a day. And the poorest 50 percent  maintain only 7.2 percent of the world’s private consumption. How exactly could they have accumulated an amount of surplus wealth comparable to the 85 filthy richest?
Hundreds of millions live in debt even in “affluent” countries like the United States. They face health care debts, credit card debts, college tuition debts, and so on. Many, probably most who own homes—and don’t live in shacks or under bridges or in old vans—are still straddled with mortgages. This means their net family wealth is negative, minus-zero. They have no  propertied wealth; they live in debt.
Millions among the poorest 50 percent in the world may have cars but most of them also have car payments. They are driving in debt.  In countries like Indonesia, for the millions without private vehicles, there are the overloaded, battered buses, poorly maintained vehicles that specialize in breakdowns and ravine plunges. Among the lowest rungs of the 50 percent are the many who pick thru garbage dumps and send their kids off to work in grim, soul-destroying sweatshops.
The 85 richest in the world probably include the four members of the Walton family (owners of Wal-Mart, among the top ten superrich in the USA) who together are worth over $100 billion. Rich families like the DuPonts have controlling interests in giant corporations like General Motors, Coca-Cola, and United Brands. They own about forty manorial estates and private museums in Delaware alone and have set up 31 tax-exempt foundations. The superrich in America and in many other countries find ways, legal and illegal, to shelter much of their wealth in secret accounts. We don’t really know how very rich the very rich really are.
Regarding the poorest portion of the world population—whom I would call the valiant, struggling “better half”—what mass configuration of wealth could we possibly be talking about? The aggregate wealth possessed by the 85 super-richest  individuals, and the aggregate wealth owned by the world’s 3.5 billion poorest, are of different dimensions and different natures. Can we really compare private jets, mansions, landed estates, super luxury vacation retreats, luxury apartments, luxury condos, and luxury cars, not to mention hundreds of billions of dollars in equities, bonds, commercial properties, art works, antiques, etc.—can we really compare all that enormous wealth against some millions of used cars, used furniture, and used television sets, many of which are ready to break down?  Of what resale value if any, are such minor durable-use commodities, especially in communities of high unemployment, dismal health and housing conditions, no running water, no decent sanitation facilities, etc? We don’t really know how poor the very poor really are.
Millions of children who number in the lower 50 percent never see the inside of a school. Instead they labor in mills, mines and on farms, under conditions of peonage.  Nearly a billion people are unable to read or write. The number of people living in poverty is growing at a faster rate than the world’s population. So poverty is spreading even as wealth accumulates. It is not enough to bemoan this enormous inequality, we must also explain why it is happening.
But for now, let me repeat: the world’s richest 85 individuals do not have the same amount of accumulated wealth as the world’s poorest 50 percent. They have vastly more. The multitude on the lower rungs—even taken as a totality—have next to nothing.

Obama 'Jobs Recovery’ More Than 100 Million Not Working

January's labor report confirmed yet another month with over 100 million Americans not working. In fact, more than 100 million Americans have not been working in Obama's workers' paradise for all of 2012 and 2013, a unique achievement in American history.
White House spokesman James Carney hailed this as a milestone on the path toward the ultimate complete liberation of the American worker from the drudgery of work.
The 101.7 million Americans not working in January reflected the employment-population ratio for the month of 58.8%, compared to — to put it in proper perspective — 62% in a good year. By the fifth year of Reagan's recovery, the employment population ratio was up to 61.5%, on its way to 63.0% in 1989. That represented an increase of 17 million jobs since the Carter recession started.
Today, after five years of Obama as president, we still have not recovered the jobs lost since the latest recession began in December 2007. The economy then was employing 146.273 million Americans. More than six years later, in January 2014, the number of Americans employed was still only 145.244 million, or about 1 million fewer jobs. By now in the normal recovery there would be 6 million more jobs.
Obama is not the only president to be challenged by a recession while in office. Since the Great Depression, there have been 10 other recessions before this last one. On average, all the jobs lost in those recessions were recovered within two years after the recession started.
Moreover, Obama apologists cannot claim that the recovery from the recession was so bad because the recession was so bad. The historical record for the American economy has always been that the worse the recession, the stronger the recovery. Under every other president in U.S. history, going back for well over a century at least, the economy was in a booming recovery within years, even under Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression!
How has Obama managed to "liberate" so many workers from work? Through Social Security disability, which has increased by more than 21%, extending "unemployment" benefits to two years and by eliminating work requirements as a condition of receiving federal benefits.
The number of Americans on food stamps has soared by 50% under Obama to close to 50 million, largely because work requirements, asset checks and other restraints on abuse have been relaxed. Indeed, more than twice as many more Americans have gotten food stamps under Obama than have gotten jobs. Under ObamaCare, the same transformation is now under way for Medicaid.

America’s failed infrastructure — An in-depth analysis by Webster Tarpley

Popular author, historian and news contributor Webster Tarpley tells it like it is in an exclusive Intellihub News interview, raw and uncut

By Staff Writer
CHANTILLY, V.A. (INTELLIHUB) — “The oligarchs, the elitists, hate technology”, said author and historian Webster Tarpley going on to talk about minute details of the U.S. economy and the Interstate highway system, pointing out obvious flaws in America’s infrastructure.
Tarpley also mentions high-speed rail, mag-lev technology, which he believes would also benefit the economy. “This would change you life, this would be progress to you”, Tarpley pointed out continuing to talk about how most government infrastructure projects become sabotaged.
Tarpley also appears in SHADE the Motion Picture.
(Image: Intellihub News/ Shepard Ambellas)

The World Bank and the Politics of Environmental Destruction

A powerful new book by environmental campaigner Bruce Rich, titled “Foreclosing the Future”, pulls together a mountain of evidence to document how World Bank projects and development finance over the last two decades have continued to cause major local and global environmental damage and inflict harm on communities in borrower countries. Problems with large scale corruption in Bank lending and procurement are also exposed in the book, which charts the evolution of the Bank’s environmental and social policies and assesses the effectiveness of internal Bank reforms intended to “mainstream” environmental and social issues, tackle corruption and reduce poverty.
Drawing on Bank studies, project evaluations and sectoral reviews, it is shown that the World Bank still suffers from a pervasive “loan approval culture” driven by a perverse incentive system that pressures staff and managers to make large loans to governments and corporations without adequate attention to environmental, governance and social issues. In 2013, Bank Staff who highlight social risks and seek to slow down project processing still risk “career suicide”.
Detailed accounts of controversial Bank projects, including the Yacyretá dam (Paraguay and Argentina), Chad-Cameroon Pipeline Project, Bujagali Dam (Uganda), Nam Theun II dam (Laos) Yanacocha and Marlin gold mines (Peru and Guatemala) and forestry projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cambodia, among others, all demonstrate poor implementation of the World Bank’s and International Finance Corporation (IFC)’s social and environmental safeguards that are meant to protect the environment and vulnerable groups.
Persistent and systemic problems include underestimation of risks, faulty social and environmental impacts assessments, weak integration of environmental and social issues and a lack of monitoring and supervision.  Another core problem is insufficient attention to borrower corruption and weak governance structures, which in cases like the Chad-Cameroon pipeline have led to misappropriation of Bank funds, social conflict and human rights abuses. Even if good environmental and social work is completed, this analysis too often has limited influence on the final project design, which is still usually stacked in favour of powerful government departments and big business.
Efforts by different Bank presidents to promote change, including James Wolfensohn’s far reaching decentralisation reforms in the 1990s, are found to have weakened environmental mainstreaming. Later reforms re-locating environmental staff within infrastructure and energy departments have also resulted in less internal coordination across sectors and further marginalised social and environmental specialists whose advice is increasingly ignored.

The Bank’s “institutional amnesia”, “culture of arrogance” and inability to learn from past mistakes are also pinpointed as key obstacles to achieving sustainable outcomes for the environment and the poor. The whole book highlights how the need to address the root causes of weak environmental and social performance, including actions to eliminate perverse incentives, has been put to senior managers and the Bank’s governing body ever since the Bank’s Wapenhans report in 1992. The need to prioritise governance and respect human rights have likewise been communicated time and again through the Inspection Panel investigation reports on problem projects and through sectoral reviews sponsored by the Bank, including the World Commission on Dams (WCD) and Extractive Industries Review (EIR). Yet the Bank has consistently chosen to reject or disregard the findings of most of these studies.
Rather than heed civil society calls for the need to channel finance to alternative economic models focused on poverty reduction, empowerment of communities and sustainability, the Bank has chosen to back “high risk/high reward” mega dam, energy and infrastructure projects and is taking measures to speed up lending to please its borrower country ‘clients’. It is also directing ever larger loan volumes to subsidise large transnational mining, energy and industrial companies through the IFC in the name of ‘poverty reduction’, when internal Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) reviews question the poverty benefits of these IFC investments.
In short, instead of learning from experience of decades of development work, senior Bank staff and government ‘clients’ have pushed back against safeguards, which they incorrectly claim are costly and block development benefits for the ‘poor’, when all the aforementioned evidence points to the exact opposite. At the same time, the Bank is channelling more and more financing through non-project lending, including through financial intermediaries, development policy loans (DPLs) and direct budget support initiatives like the “Programme for Results” that are only subject to limited environmental, social controls and superficial risk assessments.
This failure to develop a robust safeguard framework to regulate DPLs and other programmatic lending is as a fatal policy gap and a key reason why the Bank has not delivered on its promise to promote sustainable development in the last 20 years.
Fundamental disconnects in World Bank policies and sectoral strategies are identified as another core obstacle to sustainability. One glaring example is Bank policies and finance for the forest sector. In the 1990s the Bank sought to protect rainforests and promote community forestry, yet at the same time its much larger structural adjustment loans to borrower governments have bolstered key international and macroeconomic drivers of forest loss in tropical countries, including support for currency devaluations, trade liberalisation and export-led agricultural expansion.
Deep contradictions in World Bank energy and climate policies are also laid bare as a fundamental cause of environmental damage. As the World Bank has become a “trustee” of the world’s global climate funds, including forest and climate programmes, it has continued to binge on enormous loans to oil and gas extraction, coal-fired power stations and large-scale mining generating environmental damage, forest loss and massive carbon emissions.
The Bank’s promotion of a flawed carbon offset market plagued by fake carbon offsets, faulty carbon accounting and false claims of “additionality” is denounced as “scandalous” and “lacking environmental integrity”. The author condemns the Bank’s duplicitous activities in facilitating the ‘grotesque’ misuse of public funds under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) for the payment of billions of dollars of carbon credits to factories and power stations in China, India and South Africa.
The author concludes that in order to achieve its stated mission of poverty reduction, the Bank must resist pressures to ‘simplify’ and accelerate lending coming from powerful borrowers and transnational companies who demand money with no strings attached. Instead of trying to compete with Southern Banks by lowering standards, the Bank must refocus its energies to build a global institution fit for the 21st century by targeting finance towards best-practice projects and programmes with robust social and environmental design and solid frameworks to prevent corruption and ensure proper monitoring and effective implementation.
The answers to accountable development finance will not stem from public-private partnerships, “natural capital accounting” nor slick IT initiatives, the “blogosphere” or “cyber utopia”, argues Rich, but in progressive leadership at the World Bank Group. This means that leaders must have the conviction to face down the old guard and redesign the Bank as a financial institution and development bank that rewards attention to social and environmental issues, good governance, and rule of law, equity and sustainability.
As well as presenting powerful arguments for reform, the book is crammed full of facts about the Bank and international development finance. It also documents two decades of civil society campaigns to hold the Bank accountable and promote reform. For these reasons, it will be of great interest to civil society activists and campaigners in the North and South.
Any arguments that this book is already out of date, that lessons have been learned  and the Bank has changed just won’t stand up: in January 2014 the World Bank and IFC were again under intense public scrutiny for their finance for deeply destructive agribusiness and forest destruction masquerading as fortress conservation involving forced evictions and human rights abuses in Honduras and Kenya.
This is why this book is recommended reading for the current World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and his advisors leading the latest ‘modernisation’ drive for the Bank. Will they repeat the same mistakes of past World Bank reforms or will they act on evidence and experience? Will they address well documented weaknesses, glaring gaps and implementation problems in the Bank’s safeguard system? Will they learn from the current atrocities funded with World Bank funds?
Past experience with this global financial institution shows we should not hold our breath.